The Council was able to embrace the ecumenical movement because it understood the church as a whole as movement, namely as the people of God on the move. Or to formulate it another way: the Council ascribed new relevance to the eschatological dimension of the church and described the church not as a static but as a dynamic entity, as the people of God undertaking a pilgrimage between “already” and “not yet”. The Council integrated the ecumenical movement into this eschatological dynamic. Understood in this sense, ecumenism is the way of the church. It is not an addendum or an appendix but forms an integral part of the very essence of the church and its pastoral activity.
From this eschatological perspective, the ecumenical movement is intimately connected with the mission movement. Ecumenism and mission belong together like twins.
Mission is an eschatological phenomenon in which the church takes up the cultural riches of the peoples, purifies and enriches them, and is thereby itself enriched and endowed with the full expression of its catholicity. Similarly, in ecumenism the church enters into an exchange of gifts with the separated churches, enriches them, but also reciprocally makes their gifts its own, adds them to its catholic fullness and thus fully realises its own catholicity. Mission and ecumenism are the two forms of the eschatological pathway and the eschatological dynamic of the church.
– Cardinal Walter Kasper, The Decree on Ecumenism – Read Anew After Forty Years 11 Nov 2004
From the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute
Mission in Jesus’ Name (Matthew 18:14).
Daniel 3:19-30, Witnessing for faith.
Psalm 146, In praise of God the Savior.
Acts 8:26-40, Philip witnesses to the Ethiopian eunuch.
Luke 10:1-12, Jesus sends out his disciples.
Today we meet people who are called by God to witness to their faith. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have a strong and firm belief in the One who saves them. Their fervor, courage and united witness, in the face of great personal danger, convince the king and his officials that their God is the one true God. However, their faith-witness served also to rally the fainthearted of Israel. In this way the people of God were strengthened and united once more around their God. The psalmist sings the praises of the Lord who reaches out to the people in many different circumstances so that they may find safety and salvation. The definitive example of God’s continuous care for his people may be seen in the sending of Jesus. He not only gathers in those who are weak and have gone astray, but also expects his disciples to be enthusiastic and committed in sharing the good news of the kingdom of God when sent on mission in his name. Philip reflects the enthusiasm of the early church. He capitalizes on every opportunity that presents itself to fulfil the mission of Jesus. As Christ’s followers today we are called to be a missionary people. Moreover, the message of the gospel is always stronger when Christians are united in offering a common witness to its truth. It is our turn to share the good news with all people. We are called to have courage in the face of unbelief; to move out from the security of our own culture and religious tradition; to find new and innovative ways of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ; to be inspired and excited by our common faith; to be motivated by the compassion of Jesus; to work together to alleviate suffering in our world; and to challenge the injustice in the world and stand alongside the poor. In the face of a rapidly evolving world, the united witness to the gospel that Christians give comes from both our activity of going out to the world, and our gathering in the weak so that not one of the little ones should be lost. We have a double calling to fulfill!
Living God, awaken in us the desire to be a missionary people. Help us to listen for your call and grant us the courage to follow the guidance of your Spirit. Through our common witness may we gather in the weak to be strengthened and go out to all the world to proclaim the good news of your kingdom. Amen.